Teddy Bridgewater looked sharp to start his second season, even if it was the preseason.
Bridgewater played only the first series of the Minnesota Vikings’ first preseason game, a 14-3 win, but completed 5 of 6 passes for 44 yards, including converting first downs on second-and-8 with a 13-yard pass to Jerick McKinnon and an 11-yard pass to Kyle Rudolph on third-and-7. Bridgewater also opened the game with an 11-yard pass to Rudolph.
The second-year quarterback nearly converted another first down deep in Steelers territory on third-and-9, but a big hit stopped Jarius Wright a yard short. The Vikings went for a first down on fourth-and-1 from the 10-yard line following the play to Wright, but a few missed blocking assignments kept McKinnon from getting to the first-down marker and the Vikings turned the ball over on downs on Bridgewater’s only series of the game.
But at least it was a continuation of sorts from the strong finish the quarterback had in his rookie season.
Bridgewater finished the season with the highest completion percentage (72.1) over the final five games, but in his time Sunday night he was going against a Steelers defense no longer operating under the guidance of longtime coordinator Dick LeBeau.
“It’s great to get the season started finally and be out here on this stage,” Bridgewater said. “Good for us to face a different team instead of ourselves in training camp. It’s special to be able to play in front of the new Hall of Fame class and pay respects to the players who came before us.”
Last year, by the time Bridgewater was in the lineup, Adrian Peterson wasn’t with the team. This year, Peterson isn’t expected to play in the preseason, but if Bridgewater’s initial preseason outing was any indication, it should be a well-balanced offense even when Peterson returns at the start of the regular season.
Bridgewater’s only miss came when he threw low for Mike Wallace on second-and-9.
“I wish I could have hit Mike in the flat right there, but we know we’re not where we want to be. It’s the first preseason game but we’re going to get better,” Bridgewater said.
“I got a little greedy. I was hoping to hit Kyle Rudolph. He was running a corner route and he tripped and I got to Mike later. Coach (Scott) Turner, he talked to me and told me, ‘Hey, the play starts with Mike.’ That’s one of those deals where I have to stay within the system. Sometimes it’s good to be aggressive, but in that case if I hit Mike we’ll avoid fourth down.”
The Vikings didn’t play veteran backup Shaun Hill, preferring to get a longer look at the two quarterbacks battling for the No. 3 spot. Both Mike Kafka, who finished off the first half after Bridgewater took the first series, and rookie Taylor Heinicke, completed 5 of 7 passes. Kafka had a 34-yard touchdown when he hit a wide open MyCole Pruitt on a crossing route for a 34-yard touchdown. Heinicke had an interception, but that mistake was on tight end Chase Ford, who failed to fully secure an on-target pass that transferred directly into cornerback Kevin Fogg’s hands.
That was essentially the difference between Kafka finishing with a 121.2 passer rating and Heinicke finishing at 42.1. Bridgewater had a 97.2 rating.